MORE THAN A DOZEN DEFENDANTS PLEAD GUILTY TO VIOLATING ASBESTOS RULES; ONE INDICTED FOR NUMEROUS ALLEGATIONS OF WRONG-DOING
19 years ago
RELEASE DATE: 02/24/2000
(#00034) Albany, New York -- Daniel J. French, United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York and Jeanne M. Fox, Regional Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency, announced today the criminal convictions by guilty pleas of twelve individuals and two corporations in seven separate cases relating to widespread asbestos violations occurring throughout central and upstate New York. In addition, Mr. French and Ms. Fox announced the Indictment of a fifteenth defendant for money laundering and clean air act violations.
Criminal investigations of the asbestos abatement industry by the United States throughout central and upstate New York have revealed widespread non-compliance with asbestos laws at virtually every level, including illegal asbestos abatement; false laboratory analysis; improper/fraudulent compliance monitoring; and falsified asbestos abatement training. The United States has identified in excess of two hundred (200) buildings at which illegal asbestos activities have occurred. In addition to these two hundred, hundreds of additional buildings are anticipated to be identified in the near future.
Investigations into illegal asbestos activities are ongoing, and the government anticipates that additional prosecutions will be forthcoming. The investigation to date has revealed significant violations in every major metropolitan area with the Northern District of New York including Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Syracuse, Utica, Watertown, Auburn and Binghamton.
United States Attorney French stated, “The breadth and scope of these crimes are startling and illustrates the basest form of greed. Over and over again, these defendants willingly put the public at risk to line their own pockets. They will now face the consequences of their horribly irresponsible acts.”
“By thumbing their noses at the Clean Air Act, these defendants put workers and others in harms way,” said Jeanne M. Fox. “There is a reason for restrictions on asbestos removals----asbestos is a dangerous substance if it is mishandled. Make no mistake, where protecting human health and the environment are concerned, the federal government does not fool around. These pleas and indictments prove that environmental criminals will pay dearly for dodging the law.”
THE THORN INDICTMENT
On February 16, 2000, a Grand Jury sitting in Syracuse, N.Y. returned an Indictment charging JOSEPH “JAY” THORN, 408 Washington Ave., Rensselaer, N. Y., former owner of A+ Environmental Services, Inc. of Rensselaer, N. Y., with widespread illegal asbestos activities and related money laundering. Specifically, THORN was charged with supervising activities relating to dozens of illegal asbestos abatement projects in the central/upstate New York area. The activities included falsifying and obtaining falsified test results for asbestos removal projects at elementary schools, nursing homes, State Police barracks, and the New York State Legislative Building, among up to 130 other illegal projects. The Indictment charges that, in numerous instances, THORN violated the Clean Air Act by illegally removing the asbestos in a manner not permitted by law. In other instances, he obtained falsified laboratory results purportly to demonstrate that he had successfully finished a project when he had not, so as to make it appear to a broad range of clients that he had, in fact, complied with all Federal, State and local laws. He repeatedly falsified Medical Surveillance Certificates to document medical clearance for workers to participate on asbestos projects when no such clearances had actually been obtained. THORN is charged with laundering in excess of $870,000 connected with the illegal asbestos projects. If convicted, THORN could receive a maximum possible sentence sixty-five years in jail and a fine of in excess of six million two hundred thousand ($6,200,000.00) dollars.
EMPLOYEES OF ANALYTICAL LABORATORIES OF ALBANY, INC.
Analytical Laboratories of Albany, Inc. (hereinafter ALA), 31 Railroad Ave., Albany, N. Y., is an asbestos laboratory that analyzes samples from abatement projects and monitors for compliance the work being done by the abatement company. Laboratories performing analyses or monitoring compliance are required by law to be wholly independent of the asbestos abatement firms performing the asbestos removal.
ERIC FARBENT, 248 Meadlowlark Drive, Chief Executive Officer of ALA, PHILIPE GOYEAU, 26 Greenridge Drive, Clifton Park, N. Y., former ALA Executive Director, ALISON GARDNER, 713 County Route 351, Medusa, N. Y., ALA Laboratory Directory and BRADFORD HALL, 1 Rose Lane, Rensselaer, NY, ALA Project Manager, plead guilty today to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and to commit mail fraud. In their pleas of guilty these four individuals acknowledged that for years, their purportedly independent laboratory had been secretly and illegally owned in part by the owner of AAR Contractors, Inc.. AAR Contractors is one of the largest asbestos abatement companies in New York State. At the direction of AAR and ALA owners, ALA employees falsified for years the air monitoring and laboratory analysis on AAR projects and failed to properly monitor projects for compliance with asbestos laws. Farbent and Hall acknowledged that they and other ALA employees personally participated in “after hours” illegal abatement for AAR. Further, Hall admitted to engaging in “bid rigging” to aid AAR in obtaining contracts for asbestos work that might have gone to other competitors. (Note - AAR is under criminal investigation but has not been charged with criminal activity at this time. AAR is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.)
FARBENT, GOYEAU, GARDNER and HALL each face maximum possible sentences of five years in jail and a fine of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000.00). Sentencing has been set for July 24, 2000 before the Hon. Howard G. Munson in Albany, NY.
FISHER ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES AND “THE LAB”
DANIEL FISHER, 403 Michigan Ave., Schenectady, N.Y., President of Fisher Environmental Services, Inc., 2940 Curry Road, Schenectady, N. Y., and WILLIAM CHRISTENSON, 15 Salem Drive, Saratoga Springs, N. Y., owner of “The Lab”, located at 6 Brookman Avenue, Delmar, NY, pled guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and to commit mail fraud. For four years DANIEL FISHER operated Fisher Environmental Services, Inc., an air monitoring company. Also, under the assumed name “Robert Rivers”, FISHER secretly owned and operated “Empire Remediation”, an asbestos abatement company. Empire Remediation worked on many of the same projects as Fisher Environmental despite not being allowed by law to do so because of the requirement that monitoring companies be independent from abatement companies. Fisher Environmental regularly falsified samples or failed outright to take samples at Empire projects, and otherwise failed to comply with the Clean Air Act requirements for the proper removal of asbestos. FISHER obtained from WILLIAM CHRISTENSON and his company, “The Lab,” hundreds of false air monitoring reports. Fisher Environmental sent some of those false lab results to other asbestos abatement companies (including A+ Environmental Services and JAY THORN) for use in their efforts to falsely and fraudulently document proper asbestos abatement at projects for which they violated Federal, State and local laws.
FISHER and CHRISTENSON each face maximum sentences of five years in jail and a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar fine. Sentencing has been set by the Hon. Howard G. Munson for July 25, 2000 in Albany, NY.
OWNERS OF ENVIRONMENTAL SUPPORT SYSTEMS (ESS)
JAMES D. MILLER, 27 Webster Street, Fort Plain, N. Y., Director of Environmental Support Systems and PRESTON YOUNG, 11 Limerick Drive, Albany, N. Y., Assistant Director, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. From 1996-1998, ILLER and YOUNG operated an asbestos training academy and provided hundreds of false asbestos training certifications to numerous asbestos workers who did not receive required training. Many of these workers thereafter worked on asbestos abatement projects, notwithstanding their lack of sufficient training to ensure proper removal and knowledge of basic safety precautions necessary to protect their health and those of individuals who came into contact with the asbestos at various projects.
MILLER and YOUNG each face a maximum possible sentence of five years in jail and a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar ($250,000.00) fine. Sentencing has been set by the Hon. Howard G. Munson for July 25, 2000 in Albany, NY.
PREVIOUS CONVICTIONS RELATED TO PHANTOM ESS TRAINING
In crimes related to the pleas of MILLER AND YOUNG, in October, 1999 EDWARD JUBIC, KEVIN LATANT, KENNETH NUSCA, LAWRENCE ST. ANDREWS, III, CHARLES JUBREY, JOHN MANTYNEN, ANTHONY PRIORE AND FRANK COSTELLO were sentenced after pleading guilty to violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act (and/or conspiracy) for fraudulently obtaining asbestos handlers or supervisors certificates after falsely claiming to have received required training from Environmental Support Systems.
NORTHERN ENVIROMENTAL SERVICES, INC.
JOHN PHELPS, 35, 247 Pangborn Road, Hastings, N.Y., THOMAS STRONG, 35, 5994 Jerusalem Drive, Cicero, N. Y., and NORTHERN ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES, INC., with offices at 6838 Ellicott Drive, East Syracuse, N. Y., operate a large asbestos abatement company in the upstate New York area. At the direction supervisors, NES employees illegally removed, transported and disposed of asbestos from numerous buildings in the central and upstate area. Phelps pled guilty to violating the Clean Air Act. THOMAS STRONG pled guilty as an accessory after the fact to PHELPS’ illegal conduct by helping him to hide such activities from Environmental Protection Agency criminal investigators at the Lamson Building in Syracuse, New York. NORTHERN ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES, INC. was indicted and pled guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act.
Previously, on March 9, 1999, SEAN HALLORAN, 106 Bristol Place, Syracuse, NY, Project Manager for NORTHERN ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES, pled guilty to violating the Clean Air Act. HALLORAN admitted to illegal asbestos removal without proper containment, respirators, warning signs or disposal at the Lamson Building in Syracuse, NY. HALLORAN intentionally misrepresented to EPA Special Agents and a Department of Labor inspector that a “hot zone” (an area from which asbestos was actively being removed) was inactive. Through this misrepresentation the agents and inspector entered the hot zone area without respirators or protection of any sort. No date for sentencing has yet been set. PHELPS and HALLORAN face a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison and a two hundred and fifty thousand ($250,000.00) fine. STRONG faces a maximum possible penalty of two and one half years in prison and a one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollar fine ($125,000.00). NORTHERN ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES, INC., faces a maximum possible fine of Five Hundred Thousand ($500,000.00). Sentencing has been set before the Hon. Howard G. Munson for July 19, 2000 in Syracuse, NY.
PAUL MANCUSO, OWNER OF AR DIGIMA
PAUL MANCUSO, 35, 1005 Jefferson Avenue, Utica, N. Y., pled guilty to a violation of the Clean Air Act relating to the illegal removal, storage, and disposal of friable asbestos on a large asbestos abatement project, the former Woolworth Building, in Binghamton, N.Y. The defendant further admitted that he sought and obtained false air monitoring tests. MANCUSO is the owner and Operations Manager of A. R. Digima, an asbestos abatement company located in Utica, N.Y. MANCUSO faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in jail and a two hundred and fifty thousand ($250,000.00) fine. Sentencing has been set for July 19, 2000 in Syracuse, NY before the Hon. Howard G. Munson.
LAKEWOOD CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, LLC
LAKEWOOD CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, LLC, Utica, N.Y., pled guilty to illegal asbestos removal in violation of the Clean Air Act. The company is involved in the renovation of a historic hotel (the Hotel Utica). LAKEWOOD CONTRUCTION COMPANY engaged in illegal removal and disposal of large quantities of asbestos while renovating this facility. LAKEWOOD CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, LLC was today sentenced to pay a penalty of $75,000 by the Hon. Howard G. Munson, in Albany, NY.
PREVIOUS CONVICTIONS FOR ILLEGAL ASBESTOS ABATEMENT
Previous convictions related to this ongoing investigation include:
STEVEN HUNTER, 42, 276 Wheat Street, Cayuga, New York, owner of Hunter Heating, Plumbing, and Contracting, was convicted after trial of six separate Clean Air Act felonies related to the illegal removal and disposal of asbestos at the Masonic Temple in Auburn, N.Y. HUNTER will be sentenced this Spring. The evidence established that, in addition to committing multiple Clean Air act violations, he knowingly and intentionally exposed his workers to very significant amounts of asbestos dust for several months during the removal of boilers and pipes. The evidence further established that, at least with regard to several of the workers, the defendant never told them the insulation material they were handling daily was asbestos. These workers are currently undergoing medical tests to establish a health baseline in the event of future cancer or asbestosis. HUNTER faces a maximum sentence of thirty years in prison and a fine of one million five hundred thousand ($1,500,000.00) dollars. Sentencing has been set for May 12, 2000, by the Hon. Howard G. Munson. TERENCE CONKLIN, Cape Coral, Florida, was sentenced on April 23, 1999 to ten (10) months in jail following his conviction upon a guilty plea to illegally removing asbestos from a Binghamton Office Building without complying with any Clean Air provision. He buried some of the asbestos in the building basement and abandoned other asbestos outside of the building without any containment or other precautions.
Investigation of the cases set forth above were conducted by law enforcement officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Postal Service, the New York State Office of Inspector General, the United States Army Criminal Investigation Division and asbestos Inspectors from the New York State Departments of Labor and Health Asbestos Control Bureau. Prosecution of these cases is being handled by Craig A. Benedict, Assistant U.S. Attorney. Mr. Benedict may be reached at 315-448-0672 with any questions.Blog